Accusations that Bill Cosby is a rapist have flown like bats out of the cave recently. The long string of accusers, who have made their claims for varying lengths of time, all share remarkable degrees of sameness. The basic storyline is a young, pretty, white woman in the presence of Bill Cosby has her legal ability to give consent impaired by the administration of pharmacological substances and Grandpa-archetype Cosby initiates sexual activity.
I’ve spend my career collecting evidence, evaluating it, and drawing conclusions. There are people in prison and in the grave based on some of the things I have done. Just as importantly, there are people still both alive and free because I raised my hand to say “There’s no there in there.” I’m not Sherlock Holmes. I’m not Perry Mason. Neither am I Jack Bauer or Elliot Ness. What I am is seasoned, well-trained, and possessor of an ability to dispassionately evaluate evidence. I also have a keenly honed sense for detecting bullshit. In short, I go to the trouble to carry around a knapsack so full of common sense there is scarcely room to pack a lunch.
One argument from the camp that would like to hang Bill Cosby is the physical similarities between the alleged victims in that they were all young, pretty, white women at the times of the alleged sexual assaults.
What man isn’t attracted to pretty, young, white women? That is about as profound a statement as saying fat kids like Twinkies.
Hell, most men are thrilled to get two out the three. Many are willing to live a contented life only having one. The idea that these broadly defined categories somehow speak to a predatory pattern is little better than the newspaper stories of the early 1900’s that identified cocaine crazed Negros as the rapists of virtuous white women.
However, there is a remarkable consistency in the pattern of the accusations; namely the alleged use of pills as the intoxicant. Many of the women related having been supplied various unidentified pills just prior to incapacitation. The pattern to the allegations are remarkably consistent on several levels. By “remarkable” I mean worthy of more vigorous scrutiny.
There were a set of allegations in 1983 that were remarkably similar to each other involving far more sympathetic accusers with far less to gain making the accusations. An alcoholic, undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic became obsessed with her three-year-old son’s anus, ruined dozens of peoples’ lives, and created multiple public panics through junk social science, prosecutorial misconduct, and zealous public office holders drooling for re-election. There are much better summaries of the McMartin Preschool Trial, but when a victim statement includes adults flying, secret tunnel networks, and ritualized slaughter of farm animals and infants, I become suspicious of the entire statement. Note: It’s an absolutely fascinating case on several levels, and I highly encourage everyone to become familiar with it for no better reason than it illustrates the absolute idiocy to which we are all susceptible, especially when we become parents.
Call me old fashioned if you like, but I am a big fan of this legal concept called corroborating evidence.
If you tell me that a horse was slaughtered and buried at a particular location, my natural inclination would be to…wait for it…go to that location and see if there was any evidence of that claim. A horse skeleton buried in the ground would do nicely. The same goes for secret tunnels, lions used to frighten the children into behaving (yet, another claim in the case), or child pornography. If you say something happened, for better or worse, the American justice system requires a little bit more than just your say-so.
Putting the fantastical aside, one of the problems with the accusations against both the McMartin Preschool and Bill Cosby is the sameness and consistency between statements from alleged victims telling about different incidents. I have taken (and read) more statements than I can remember. That accumulated experience has taught me three things:
- Everybody lies to the cops.
- No two statements are identical, and if they are, something is wrong (see rule #1).
- Witness are completely unreliable. If six people see a car speeding away from a hit-and-run, two will get the color wrong (color of the car, I mean. At least half will get the color of the driver wrong).
I don’t know if these women are lying or telling the truth. Neither do I know the truthfulness of Bill Cosby. At the risk of going “Dr. House,” I will fall back on Investigator Rule #1: Everybody lies. The possibility of a famous and wealthy man with connections in the entertainment industry parlaying the situation into some strange on the side does not surprise me at all. It falls into the category of “No shit, Sherlock.” What would surprise me is if he didn’t, but that isn’t the issue. Neither cheating on a wife nor spending time on the casting couch are criminal matters. I’m not even sure they are civil matters (Any tort attorney reading, feel free to educate me. Please include your State Bar Number as your bona fides). All the accusations come down to a matter of consent, assuming they occurred at all.
Which brings me to another question I ask myself when evaluating evidence. What is the person’s motivation? Bill Cosby could very well be a flagrant philanderer and serial rapist who preys upon young starlets by drugging them to varying degrees of consciousness. And if that is the case, he most certainly belongs in a cage for a very long time. And when you consider the Bill Cosby image, the substantial assets, and the phenomenally long (by any standard) marriage, he has massive motivation to lie that’s above and beyond possible imprisonment.
However, an equal amount of salt must be apportioned when evaluating the accusers. What do they have to gain?
Kid Rock’s motivations in life are “girls, money, fame.” That sounds about right. And in the right order, too.
Again, I’m not saying any or all of the accusations are false. There may very well be a kernel of truth in some or all of them; just not the important kernel. I will probably lose all five of my fans to howls of “blaming the victim,” but the best way to illustrate what I mean is by putting on my Investigator Hat.
Andrea Constand reported to Canadian authorities in 2004 that Cosby drugged her with “herbal pills” and “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated her” when Cosby invited her to his home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Why she thought Canadian cops would have jurisdiction over the matter completely baffles me. She has a touch of Oblivia in her.
I guess attendance at a prestigious school does not endow the graduate with any sort of common sense. The concept of jurisdiction is one thing the movies get more or less right, and I presume she has seen CSI or some such drivel.
While on the topic of being baffled and befuddled, would someone please explain to me exactly which herbal pills and in what dosage would cause the imbiber to become so loopy as to allow an allegedly lecherous old man to get to Third Base. I know I have at least one follower who is a nurse (If you haven’t already, you really should visit her blog). And if there is no such combination available at my local GNC Nutrition Store, Walmart pharmacy, or Chinese herbalist, where I can also purchase a Mogwai, what’s it doing in the report? Is it simply an irrelevant portion of a larger statement or was it included by the maker of the statement to make it better fit a preconceived narrative? I’m open to other possibilities. Investigation is a collaborative process.
To Constand’s credit, she reported the alleged sexual assault to authorities at the time it occurred, and the Montgomery County District Attorney did not bring charges against Cosby. Now, I’ve been around this stuff long enough to know there is a significant difference between a Prosecutor choosing not to file charges and there being nothing to the complaint. On the contrary, as was related by the then District Attorney, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Cosby. Well, fair enough. It’s a fucked up fact of life that “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove.”
Lacking proof beyond a reasonable doubt or presumably enough to even bind Cosby over for trial, Constand sued Cosby civilly for battery and sexual assault. Civil cases (in most instances) operate with a preponderance of evidence burden of proof. Think of it as “fifty percent plus a sneeze.” With thirteen women lined up and ready to testify, not to the facts in question, but to similar acts by the defendant (never mind that such testimony would never be allowed in the guilt phase of a trial), another harsh reality of life is exposed.
Even when you’re in the right, it is often cheaper to pay off the plaintiff without admitting guilt and all sides promising to keep their mouths shut.
And that is exactly what happened in the end. Constand was paid an undisclosed sum, Bill Cosby did not admit wrongdoing, and the plaintiff has not been heard from since. I won’t detail the Jane Does because they all say more or less the same thing (there is the suspicious similarity again).
Tamara Green – Aspiring singer in the 1970’s. Alleges Cosby drove her home from one of his restaurants, after giving her pills when she was feeling sick, proceed to undress her and then rape her.
Beth Ferrier – Model in the 1980’s. Alleges that after ending a month-long affair with Cosby, he drugged her coffee and she wound up alone in her car with an undone bra and the last several hours of her memory gone.
Barbara Bowman – Artist and actress. Alleges two druggings and sexual assaults; Reno and New York City.
Joan Tarshis – Actress who alleges Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her twice in 1969. However, from the information I have, it is unclear whether the “twice” was two different events or twice within the same event.
I’m not going to address the question of why someone would ingest an unknown substance provided by someone who is at best a casual acquaintance. Perhaps I’m an overly protective father, but I warn all of my children not to accept rides, gifts, or consumable items from people they are not related to. When the girls are older, my advice will be not leave their drinks unattended and not to accept open drinks, even from people they know.
The boys, on the other hand…They should be so lucky to be drugged and raped. I know it’s a double standard and I’m ok with that. Besides, it would make a great story.
I’m more concerned with motivations. Specifically, what motivates a former mistress to still be in contact with her lover after she dumps him? What motivates a rape victim to be anywhere near her rapist again by choice? Again, nothing would excuse these behaviors by Cosby, if the allegations are true, but as related by these women, they had some lapses in judgment that resulted in a sketchy situation to go bad. I’ve knowingly and unknowingly put myself in many a questionable situations over my lifetime, and I admit to every bad decision I make. I don’t see any of that going on. It’s not a matter of “deserve.” It’s a matter of using your head for more than a hat rack so you can avoid the bad stuff happening to you.
Like that dumb Portagee who jumped into the tiger enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo a few years ago. Does the tiger really deserve all the blame?
At what point do we look at these alleged victims and say, “You know, that wasn’t really the smartest thing in the world to do”? My point about motivations is I get the sense from these women’s stories that they were around Bill Cosby because they wanted something from Bill Cosby. I’m not saying they went with the intent to engage in quid pro quo or that they somehow deserve what happened to them. What I think is this is a shakedown. If they are not outright lying, they are working their own separate angles to enrich themselves after a terrible violation was committed upon them. Either way, I think that makes them terrible people.
And now, we have no fewer than seven women as I write this who have leveled similar allegations; six fading-star entertainment figures, one with convictions for ID fraud, battery, theft, and all the standard doper crimes (trafficking Oxycodone, possession of a controlled substance and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud), and all seven well past their prime. Where were they back in 2005 when Andrea Constand, the most credible of the bunch, got this whole thing rolling? There wasn’t a peep out of them when the reality show was on or the real estate market was booming or the movie residuals were still rolling in.
Regardless of the veracity of anyone involved in this mess or the final outcome, I have one piece of advice for Bill Cosby:
Hookers. They are cheaper in the long run. Ask Charlie Sheen.